Does God’s grace make salvation available to all people?

Ribbon Salvation Button


By Spencer D Gear

It is common in Arminian vs Calvinist discussions for Arminians to proclaim that God’s grace offers Jesus’ salvation to all people. And this verse is one of the cornerstones of understanding the “all people” who have this grace of salvation offered.

Titus 2:11-12 reads: ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age’ (ESV).[1]

I encountered one fellow on a Christian forum who stated: ‘The verse says this grace brings salvation teaching to renounce ungodliness. Are you saying it doesn’t actually do that since apparently it comes to people and they reject the Gospel?[2]

How should I respond? This is what I stated:[3]

It’s amazing what you leave out of a verse. You should have begun your post with, ‘The verse says this grace brings salvation to all men [people] teaching to renounce ungodliness….’

Verse 11 in the Greek begins, ‘Appeared [aorist tense] for the grace of God saving to all men….’

As to ‘the grace … saving to all men’, Lutheran exegete and commentator, R C H Lenski, stated:

the grace … saving for all men.” Here is the universality of this saving grace, which is in direct contradiction to Calvin’s limited grace, who writes in his Commentary, published in Geneva in 1600, p. 542 … “Yet, he (Paul) does not understand individual men but rather notes orders or diverse genera of life,” i. e., “classes in life,” and he does this because slaves have just been mentioned as being one such class. To Calvin “all men” = some slaves, some young men, some young women, some old women, some old men. He has a similar exegesis of other passages, for instance, John 3:16: “God so loved the world,” regarding which he says that “the world” is mentioned only because there was nothing in the whole world to call forth God’s love.
12) This wondrous grace which is “saving for all men” is now operative in us (in Paul, Titus, the Cretan Christians), “educating (or training us as a pais or boy is educated, this verb is found also in I Tim. 1:20; II Tim. 2:25) us, that, having denied the ungodliness … we live sober-mindedly,” etc.  (Lenski 1937:919-920).

Emeritus professor of New Testament at Regent College, Vancouver BC, Canada and editor of Eerdmans’ New International Commentary series on the New Testament, Gordon D Fee (ordained with the Assemblies of God), wrote of Titus 2:11,

An explanatory for opens the paragraph and thus closely ties verses 11-14 to 2-10. It proceeds to explain why God’s people should live as exhorted in 2-10 (so that the message from God will not be maligned [v. 5] but instead will be attractive [v. 10]): because the grace of God that brings salvation to all people has appeared.
In the Greek text all of verses 11-14 form a single sentence, of which the grace of God stands as the grammatical subject. But contrary to the NIV (and KJV), Paul does not say that this grace appeared to all men; rather, as almost all other translations have it, and as both Paul’s word order and the usage in 1 Timothy 2:3-6 demand it, what has appeared (see disc. on 1 Tim. 6:14; epiphaneia) is grace from God that offers salvation to all people.
Paul does not indicate here the reference point for this revelation of God’s grace. Most likely he is thinking of the historical revelation effected in the saving event of Christ (v. 14; cf. 2 Tim. 1:9-10), but it could also refer existentially to the time in Crete when Paul and Titus preached the gospel and Cretans understood and accepted the message (cf. 1:3 and 3:3-4). That at least is when the educative dimension of grace, emphasized in verse 12, took place (Fee 1988:194, emphasis in original).

These evangelical commentators who are committed to a high view of Scripture affirm, contrary to Calvin, that Titus 2:11 affirms that what has appeared is grace from God that offers salvation to all people. Period! Full stop!

The kind of response to this post was predictable from the Calvinists. Here are a couple of examples:

6pointGold-small ‘Bringing now means offering. Got it’.[4]

My response was:

Why don’t you do your own Greek exegesis on the aorist, epephane (Titus 2:11), from epiphainw?

Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning in the passive voice (as here), ‘show oneself, make an appearance’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:304).

So are you going to challenge Arndt & Gingrich’s etymology of the word?

It doesn’t matter whether one uses ‘bringing’ or ‘offering’, the meaning is the same as I understand it. It refers to the Epiphany of Christ’s Incarnation that brought, offered salvation to the whole world – the entire race of humanity – ALL.[5]

Here was another Calvinistic response to my post:

6pointGold-small Appeal to authority fallacy. The verse says nothing about ‘offering salvation’. There you go attempting to shoehorn your free will-ism in there again.

‘These evangelical commentators who are committed to a high view of Scripture affirm, provide exegesis of the text that is contrary to Calvin’ [myy citation above]

It’s also contrary to the Bible.[6]

I responded in this way: [7]

That’s exegesis speaking and you don’t seem to like it.

But I consider it is rather contradictory when you claim that it is my tradition speaking but you don’t state that your tradition is doing some speaking through you in this thread.

Now answer the exegesis that Lenski and Fee provided. I gave them as examples, not as promoting a genetic fallacy, but to demonstrate that I am not the only exegete who comes to conclusions different to Calvin and griff.

The Nizkor Project’s explanation of the genetic fallacy contains this qualification, ‘It should be noted that there are some cases in which the origin of a claim is relevant to the truth or falsity of the claim. For example, a claim that comes from a reliable expert is likely to be true (provided it is in her area of expertise)’.

I have provided expert exegesis from Lutheran and Assemblies of God scholars who contradict your and Calvin’s view on Titus 2:11. It is a perfectly legitimate approach as Lenski and Fee have expertise in their area – NT Greek Exegesis.

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[8] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Fee, G D 1988. I and 2 Timothy, Titus. W Ward Gasque, New Testament (ed). Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Lenski, R C H 1937. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. Paul’s epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.


[1] Unless otherwise stated, all Bible citations are from the English Standard Version.

[2] Christian Forums, Soteriology, Is rejecting Christ a sin, griff #510, available at: (Accessed 10 July 2013).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen #535.

[4] Ibid., Hammster #536.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen #541.

[6] Ibid., griff #537.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen #538.

[8] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.